The Thames Valley District School Board will hold its first day of school on Sept. 14 for the 2020-2021 year.
The new start date, which was previously set for Sept. 8, was announced during a special meeting of the TVDSB on Tuesday.
Elementary students will have a staggered start to the school year between Sept. 14 and Sept. 17, with a full return of all students on Sept. 18.
The school board, which serves more than 82,000 students in the London, Middlesex County, Elgin County and Oxford County, plans to send out schedules for the staggered starts by Friday.
The delayed start is intended to allow for preparations for the return to school, including the need to draft new timetables for all secondary students in the school board.
TVDSB director of education Mark Fisher said the need for new timetables stems from a meeting with the Ontario Ministry of Education on Aug. 21.
The TVDSB had initially sought to have secondary students attend two courses per day, but Fisher told the meeting on Tuesday that the ministry requested that number be brought down to one course per day.
“This changes affect every single student schedule in the district and over 25,000 secondary students are being re-timetabled,” Fisher said. “While this is happening, we are also organizing full remote learning for over 12,280 students.
“Our capacity to do this work is, to be completely candid, stretched to the absolute limit.”
Along with the delayed start to the school year, the meeting also revealed plans for masking students at TVDSB.
Medical masks will be required for all staff. Non-medical masks are necessary for students from Grade 4 to Grade 12, but are only strongly recommended for students in Grade 3 and under.
Fisher told the meeting these rules reflect directions from Southwestern Public Health and the Middlesex-London Health Unit — both of which cover schools in TVDSB.
“(The health units) are very, very clear that no single student should ever be excluded from school for non-compliance for not wearing a mask between Kindergarten and Grade 3,” Fisher said.
Later in the meeting, board trustees approved a motion that masks shall be mandatory for all students and staff in all TVDSB buildings and on student transportation.
However, the motion, as read by board chair Arlene Morell, noted that there would be “no disciplinary action for students (between Kindergarten and Grade 3) who have difficulty complying.”
Dipping into reserve funds
Tuesday’s meeting also saw board trustees approve a request to use $9.4 million of its reserve fund to help cover pandemic-related costs.
The money amounts to nearly half of TVDSB’s available reserve fund and will help cover more than $18 million in projected expenses.
Those projected expenses include the hiring of additional custodial staff, along with additional teachers, administrators and technology to support remote learning.
Combining the reserving funding with other projected revenues, TVDSB is projecting a funding shortfall just under $2.8 million.
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